Tag Archives: review

Review: Lazadas Blocking Wires

Recently, I was invited by astridl on Ravelry to review a set of blocking wires from her company, Lazadas. Since, like many crocheters, I have a love/hate relationship with blocking, I thought I’d share the review as part of my celebration of (Inter)National Crochet Month.

Blocking wires1

When the package arrived, I discovered that Lazadas Knitting Accessories is based in Israel.  Not to worry, as their products ship worldwide with a flat $5 fee.

Blocking wires2

The sets come in small packages with snap closures and handles.

Blocking wires3

The set package has a gusset so it can stand on its own.

Blocking wires4

I tried out the Mix Set, which includes four 35″ (90 cm) blocking wires, three 70″ (180 cm) blocking wires, and 30 nickel plated T-pins.

There are three other sets available.  The Short Set includes ten 35″ (90 cm) blocking wires, and is recommended for shawlettes, sleeves, sweaters, and cardigans.  The Long Set includes five 70″ (180 cm) blocking wires, and is recommended for stoles, big shawls, and baby blankets. Both sets include 30 nickel plated T-pins, and, like the Mix Set, are priced at $28.90.  The Deluxe Set includes ten 35″ (90 cm) blocking wires, five 70″ (180 cm) blocking wires, and 60 nickel plated T-pins and is priced at $56.

Blocking wires5

The wires are coiled and the package (wisely) advises you to carefully open them.

So… back to my love/hate relationship with blocking.  I only started blocking my crochet a few years ago when I started designing. As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer spray blocking. I don’t like my projects to get that “overblocked” look, so I generally avoid wet blocking and “killing” the fabric with steam. (If you’d like to try either of those methods, Tamara Kelly shares tutorials on wet blocking and steam blocking on the Moogly blog.)

blog Pineapples unblocked

To test out the wires, I chose this version of my Pineapples for Everyone Shawl pattern (available for free here in English and here in Italian).  This shawl is crocheted with SHOKAY Orient in Cerulean.  As you can tell from the pre-blocking picture above, it is a bit “squishy” looking and the pineapples aren’t very opened up.

blog SHOKAY Pineapples for Everyone blocking

Thankfully, simple instructions are included in the set as I’d never used blocking wires before.

In the past, I’ve applied seemingly endless amounts of pins across the edges of my projects. For this shawl, I used one 70″ (180 cm) wire for each side.  (If you look closely at the bottom of the picture above, you can see the excess of the wires sticking out.) With the wires, I could pin to shape just a few times and let the wires do their work.  I was also able to bend the wires on the bottom edges and pin them to allow the pineapples on the edges to fan out.

blog SHOKAY Pineapples for Everyone blocked

Here’s the shawl after blocking.  You can see that the edges are more defined, and it is less “squishy.”

blog SHOKAY Pineapples for Everyone blocked detail

The pineapples are completely opened up and they look great.

I have since used these wires to block several other projects, including two baby blankets, which I can’t share on the blog yet.  In each case, I found the process significantly easier than pin blocking alone, and the results were much neater looking.

I would highly recommend Lazadas Blocking Wires.  The package is small enough to be portable – with the gusset folded flat, it can easily flat.  At the same time, it stands up so you can find it on your shelf.  The wires are very flexible and easy to uncoil and recoil (carefully, that is).  The T-pins can easily be positioned so that they hold the wires in place. The instructions are straightforward and effective.

As for sizes, thus far, I have used the 70″ (180 cm) wires for everything except for squares/motifs.  I like having extra room on the edges, so the 35″ (90 cm) wires feel too short for most of my projects.  I have used the 35″ (90 cm) wires to block several squares at once.

I should also note that with one particularly fiddly blanket that I blocked, I needed more than the 30 pins in the set, so I used the quilting pins that I relied on previously to pin the rest of it.

If I were buying a set, I’d probably purchase the Long Set or the Deluxe Set, but if you mostly make smaller projects, the Short or Mix sets could work.  Thanks to the Lazadas Blocking Wires, I am now leaning much more closely towards a love/love relationship with blocking!

Edited to add: You can also find Lazadas on Etsy. The Etsy shop includes the blocking wire sets and other knitting accessories such as stitch markers, sock blockers, and needles.  (There are even a few crochet hooks.)

Full disclosure: A free review sample of this product was provided by Lazadas. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the distributor/manufacturer, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Yarn Review: Mountain Colors Twizzle

Back in November, the folks at Mountain Colors Yarns sent me these two hanks of a new-to-me yarn, Twizzle, to play with.

Mountain Colors Twizzle

I loved the look of this yarn so much that I had to snap a picture right away in the post office.  Twizzle is very soft – a fiber content of 85% Merino wool and 15% silk will do that.  The beautiful colors, which unfortunately, are not perfectly captured in this picture, are hand painted.  According to the Mountain Colors website, Logan Berry, on the left, is a “20 Year Vintage Color” and includes reds, tangerine, and purple.  Swift Current, on the right, includes dark navy blues with deep purple, pink and green.

It didn’t seem right to review a yarn without actually trying it out, so my first step was to wind the yarn.

Mountain Colors Twizzle Swift Current

I’m happy to say that both skeins wound up quickly and there were no tangles or knots in the yarn.

Since it was so close to the holidays, I decided to try the yarn out by making a holiday gift – a crescent shawlette for my sister.  I cast on about 10 times, experimenting with different needles and stitch patterns until I could find the right tension and a stitch pattern simple enough to showcase the yarn but interesting enough to keep me from napping.  Through all the ripping back and re-casting on, the yarn kept its shape and didn’t pill or split. 

Twizzle has a great feel, and unlike many soft yarns, it didn’t seem too loosely spun.  The colors are great and I love the tweedy look.  According to the website, it’s the “wool yarn plied with a strand of silk that creates a heathered effect.”

Soon, a lovely shawlette was flying off the needles.  A little too fast, actually.

Crescent shawl blog

In my haste (and because I was watching a very dramatic television show at the same time), I didn’t leave enough Swift Current to bind off with.  I didn’t want to rip back (after all, who wants to redo that last row of the shawl, the one with tons of stitches, again?), so I decided to try out the Logan Berry for the bind off.  Surprisingly, the two colors combined beautifully.  So much so that neither my sister nor mother realized it was a different color on the edge.

Mountain Colors Twizzle Shawlette flat

Each hank is a healthy size – 100 grams and approximately 250 yards.  The Mountain Colors website recommends size 4-6 (3.5-4 mm) needles, but I used size 11 (8 mm) needles.  I think I would probably use a size 9 (5.5 mm) for knitting a hat or scarf.  Admittedly, I tend to have a tight tension, but even Ravelry calls this a worsted weight yarn.

If you want to try out some Twizzle for yourself, you can find the list of shops carrying it here.  Mountain Colors also has 8 Twizzle patterns available where the yarn is sold, including the Twizzle Beanie (a one skein project) and the Back to Basics Pullover, which are also available online.  Overall, I would recommend Twizzle as an excellent luxury yarn.  It’s beautiful but also has enough yardage for you to make a nice project (such as my shawlette) with one skein.

Now I just have to wait and see what that Logan Berry skein wants to become…

Mountain Colors Twizzle Loganberry

Full disclosure: Two free samples of this product was provided by Mountain Colors. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the distributor/manufacturer, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. You can read my complete review disclosure here.

Crochet Hooks Review: Addi Swing and Comfort Hooks

Back in March, I did a series of crochet hook reviews and giveaways as part of National Crochet Month.  The generous folks at the Skacel Collection were also kind enough to send me some hooks to review, but I haven’t had a chance to post the review until now.

Crochet hooks donated by the Skacel Collection, including Addi Swing (left) and Addi Comfort Hooks (right).

You may remember that I first tried an Addi Swing hook last year, during my trip to Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Loop Addi Swing detail 2012-05-15

My first Addi Swing.

I’ll admit that at first, I was kind of wondering what the big deal was all about.  It turns out that I just needed to get used to the unusual shape of the Addi Swing, and then I found myself crocheting with it more and more.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Swing, it has a heavily curved handle made with two different textures of plastics.

The Addi Swing in US size A, donated by Skacel Collection.

The Addi Swing in US size A.

The hook handles are color coded, so if you have more than one, it’s easy to find the size you want.  (As you can see from the detailed picture above, the millimeter size of the hook is also clearly displayed on the end of the handle.)  Although the handles are large, they are lightweight.  The hooks feature a not inline point and throat.  Because the handle covers most of the hook, the shaft is very short.  This would be a great comfort hook for someone who likes a curved hook shape or a thicker handle along with a not inline hook.

I find that the large, brightly colored Addi Swing handle makes it much more difficult to lose than other hooks, which helps for those of us who crochet on the go!  On the downside, the relatively short shaft makes it difficult to form bullions and other stitches which require a longer shaft with this hook.

The Addi Swings are available in US Sizes A through L, and generally retail for about $13-$14.

Addi hooks

The Addi Comfort Hooks are another option for the crocheter who needs a longer shaft for forming different types of stitches.  Like the Swing, this hook handle also features two colors of plastic, making it easier to find the right size.  As with the Swing, the hook itself is a not inline shape with a curved point and throat.  The plastic handle is hardened but provides that extra thickness I look for in a comfort hook handle.  The more conventional shape of this handle means that it is easier to adapt to than the Swing.  These hooks are available in US sizes A through I, and typically retail at about $7.

You may be wondering if I will be offering a giveaway of these great hooks.  The answer is that I already did :).  I actually included these in the prize pack I mailed to yarnpumpkin for the Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL.

Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL prize pack, including hooks provided by Skacel Collection and yarn provided by Galler Yarns.

Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL prize pack, including hooks provided by Skacel Collection and yarn provided by Galler Yarns.

Yarnpumpkin was kind enough to share the picture she took of her wonderful prizes.

Full disclosure: Four free review samples of this product was provided by Skacel Collection. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the distributor/manufacturer, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. You can read my complete review disclosure here.

Crochet Hook Review and Giveaway: Lantern Moon Featherlight Hooks

Every Sunday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet hooks.  Today’s post features Featherlight crochet hooks, along with a giveaway for one hook, courtesy of Lantern Moon Handcrafted.

Lantern Moon has a beautiful, sustainably produced wooden hook for all of you inline hook lovers!

Lantern Moon Featherlight crochet hook.

Lantern Moon Featherlight crochet hook.

The Featherlight is made with an eco-friendly wood with a rich, dark color.  Like most inline hooks, it has a flat throat.  The hook has a long thumb rest.  I found the tip to be slightly pointier than most inline hooks, which I liked.  The end of the handle has a nice decorative look to it.

The wood is finished smoothly, and has a wonderful feeling against the hand.  As the name suggests, it is very light weight.  According to Lantern Moon, the wood is “organically treated to add density and hardness.” The hook size (in US letter, number, and mm) is written in white towards the center of the handle, and is highly visible against the contrast of the dark wood.

There aren’t any unusual features on the handle that change its shape, so this hook would be ideal for all different types of crochet.  You could even make a small Tunisian crochet project on this hook, because while the thumb rest is long, it doesn’t taper outwards as so many do so it wouldn’t stretch out your stitches.

This would be a great hook for a crocheter who prefers an inline hook, who prefers purchasing eco-friendly and ethically produced products, and/or who enjoys the comfortable feeling of a wooden hook.

The hooks are available in US letter sizes from D through K.  The retail price of the hooks are $18.90.

And, it’s no secret that I love my Tulip Etimo crochet hooks.  These are probably the set I use most regularly.  Lantern Moon is now U.S. distributor for these and other Tulip products!

Full disclosure: A free review sample of this product was provided by Lantern Moon. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the distributor/manufacturer, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. You can read my complete review disclosure here.

Giveaway

When I contacted the nice folks at Lantern Moon to tell them about my plans to review a variety of crochet hooks during NatCroMo13, they were generous enough to send along a Featherlight US size I-9/5.5 mm hook for a giveaway for one lucky reader.

Lantern Moon prize pack

This giveaway is open internationally.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, April 6, 2013.

Crochet Hook Review and Giveaway: Laurel Hill Exotic Wood Hooks

Every Sunday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet hooks.  Today’s post features exotic wood crochet hooks, along with a giveaway for two hooks, courtesy of Laurel Hill.

This post contains affiliate links.

After I (finally) learned to knit a few years back, my two best knitting pals bought me some really cool knitting needles for my birthday — two pairs of Laurel Hill square knitting needles, which I love to use for small projects.  These are some of my favorite needles, and I usually pack them when I’m teaching knitting.

At the same time, they bought me a Laurel Hill Nam Oc wood crochet hook.  Not too long after that, I won a Laurel Hill Tunisian crochet hook from a giveaway on Karen Ratto-Whooley’s blog.

My own personal Laurel Hill hook collection.

My own personal Laurel Hill hook collection.

I immediately loved the smooth and polished surface of the Laurel Hill Tunisian hook.  I’ve mentioned before that I find metal hooks quite uncomfortable for Tunisian crochet.  Like other wood hooks, these don’t experience the dramatic temperature changes of aluminum or steel crochet hooks, and they feel much gentler against the hands.  Both the standard and Tunisian crochet hooks from Laurel Hill are very smooth and don’t snag on your yarn.

But… I confess that when I first received the Nam Oc hook as a gift, I wasn’t really feeling it.  The neck is extremely tapered and, since I tend to hold my stitches quite low on the hook (closer to the thumb rest), I was having trouble getting an even tension.

A closer look at the shape of the Laurel Hill hooks.

A closer look at the shapes of the Laurel Hill giveaway hooks.

But then, when crocheting my way through the book Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters, I rediscovered the bullion stitch.  And that’s when I began to love tapered hooks.  If you’ve been struggling to get your hook through the many yarn overs in a bullion stitch, you will be thrilled to discover the exotic wood crochet hooks by Laurel Hill.  The rapidly tapered neck and the wide thumb rest allow you to keep those yarn overs loose so you can easily draw your hook through them to finish your bullion stitch.  By the way, if you’re looking for a good bullion stitch photo tutorial, I recommend Donna Kay Lacey‘s, available as a free Ravelry download.  (You can also check out my interview with her here.)

The Laurel Hill hooks are made from exotic woods that are sustainably produced.  The standard hooks are available in Nam Oc, Ebony, and Trai woods, while the Tunisian hooks are made from Forest Palm.  I’m no wood expert, and the feel across the types is very similar to me, though the Tunisian hooks seem to have a bit more glide (perhaps due to the finishing).  The different wood types each have a different color, which you might choose based on preference or for contrast with the yarn in your project.

I really love the Laurel Hill Tunisian hooks.  The distinctive color, smooth feel, and sharp point are perfect for medium sized, flat Tunisian crochet projects.  I also highly recommended the Laurel Hill exotic wood hooks for crocheters who love stitches where many loops are held on the hook, like bullions, puffs, or bobbles.

Both sets of hooks are affordable priced for wood hooks.  The Nam Oc and Trai hooks retail at $9, while the Ebony hooks retail at $10.  All three types are available in US sizes D through M (including the elusive size 7).  Laurel Hill also offers complete sets of each type of hook, as well as a “variety” set with a mix of Nam Oc, Trai, and Ebony hooks, which retails for $110.

The Tunisian Hooks are priced slightly higher, at $13 retail.  The Tunisian hooks are 10″ long and are available in US sizes D through N.

Full disclosure: Two free review samples of this product was provided by Laurel Hill. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the distributor/manufacturer, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This review post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

Giveaway

When I contacted the friendly people at Laurel Hill to tell them about my plans for reviewing their hooks during NatCroMo13, they were generous enough to send along two hooks – a Trai wood hook and a Tunisian crochet hook, both in US size I-9/5.5 mm – for a giveaway for one lucky reader.

Laurel Hill prize packThis giveaway is open internationally.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, March 30, 2013.